The Fitness Factor

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A lot of this issue’s Cancer Research Update focuses on the benefits of physical activity for cancer prevention, which is a relatively new area of study.

It’s clear that being physically active helps us lose and/or control weight. Weight control is the obvious reason to be active, now that research shows excess body fat causes seven different cancers.

Less is known about exactly how physical activity helps fight cancer independent of weight.  Studies show that it does, but can physical activity reduce cancer risk regardless of the number on the scale?

To learn more, read the full story in CRU.

And if you want a mental health boost as well as a physical one, try exercising outside. A new study in Environmental Science & Technology found that just five minutes of “green exercise” per day improves mood and self -esteem. Green exercise is any activity that takes place outdoors, such as a backyard garden or walk in a park.

With warmer weather, there are precious few excuses not to add some fun activity into your day. AICR has plenty of “Moving More” strategies here. If you have a fitness tip of your own, please share.

Hot Peppers May Help Burn Calories

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Spicy-food lovers take note: The same process that leads to beads of sweat forming when biting into a chili pepper may actually increase energy expenditure, if the findings from a preliminary (and small) study hold up.

Researchers from University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Human Nutrition presented their findings at the ongoing Experimental Biology conference.

The stuff that gives chili peppers that searing heat-inducing zing is called capsaicin. (It sets off the pain receptors on our tongue.) In the lab, capsaicin has shown cancer preventive properties; you can read about the research here, and find out how to squash that burning sensation if it’s too hot.

The UCLA scientists studied the non-burning version of capsaicin, called DCT for short. Thirty-four participants drank a low-calorie liquid meal replacement for 28 days. The participants were divided into groups: one group took a DCT supplement after the meal – either a low or high dose – another group took a placebo.

Researchers determined energy expenditure (heat production) in each subject after he or she consumed one serving of the test meal. They found that at least for several hours after the test meal was eaten, energy expenditure was significantly increased in the group consuming the highest amount of DCT. The energy expended was almost double that of the placebo group, suggesting it may help dieters by increasing metabolism.

There are plenty of caveats to this study – e.g, it’s small, limited to a single meal – but it does buoy the evidence, once again, that there is a lot of hidden health benefits inside plant foods. That supports AICR’s recommendation to eat plenty of a variety of fruits and vegetables: it will add flavor, healthful compounds, and maybe even help with weight loss.

Do you love chili peppers, hate them, or a little of both? Have a good chili pepper story?

Be Active, Get Smarter, Reduce Your Cancer Risk

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The reasons to make physical activity part of a daily routine just keep building. For one thing: there’s the evidence linking physical activity to reduced cancer risk. The latest incentive to get active comes from a new study that found exercise speeds learning and improves blood flow to the brain in monkeys.

Previous studies have linked improved learning to exercise in rodents; but this study examines this link in monkeys. The study is published in the journal Neuroscience; you can read the release here.

Physical activity can reduce cancer risk; can it make us learn better?

In the study, one group of monkeys was aerobically active – running on a treadmill for an hour each day, five days per week, for five months. Another group simply sat on the treadmill for the same amount of time.

Cognitive tests found that the exercising monkeys learned one task twice as quickly as the sedentary animals.

When it comes to exercise and cancer prevention, the link between physical activity and reducing cancer risk is clear. Regular activity acts with weight control – and excess body fat causes several different cancers – and also appears to have biological effects that lower cancer risk, such as strengthening the immune system.

Want to see if you are active enough? Take our quiz.

If you already incorporate physical activity into your day, how did you get into the habit? Any tips?